A phone date with Shenali Sema at Morphe

I first came across the label Morphe as I was searching for a dress for a special occasion. The second I saw the collection, I knew I had found something unique. As I started researching further, I discovered that the designer was none other than Shenali Sema at Morphe, someone whom I had been to boarding school with (talk about a small world).

Shenali is one of the youngest creative directors is India and is the designer-in-chief  of Morphe.  Not only is she an extremely grounded human being, the finesse of her craft is self-evident. But maybe what I love most about her is her ability to break away from convention and only produce pieces that she thinks will add value to a womans wardrobe.

TBS : Tell us about your beginnings.
SS : I grew up in Nagaland and came from a glamour free setting. However, design was always crucial to my life. After graduating high school, I went on to study textile design at NID in Ahmedabad. To further harness my skills, I studied at Central Saint Martins for a year and interned at Anna Sui. This allowed me to see the inner workings of a luxury fashion house but I also saw the challenges that come with it.

TBS : How did Morphe happen?
SS : I had just returned from the UK and was looking for opportunities in Delhi. I wrote to Shiv Aggarwal who is the owner of Creative Impex and joined them as a senior designer. Amit Aggarwal who was the creative director then, left to focus on his namesake label. I was then given the freedom to shape Morphe into what I saw most fitting.

TBS : How would you describe Morphe?
SS : The Morphe product is seasonless and is created to focus on investment dressing. We focus on quality above all else and are not concerned with mass manufacturing. There is a research and development team and a quality control team that really help keep things flowing smoothly. Creative Impex (the main group) manufactures for a lot of American and European designers. This has allowed us to keep our standards at par with the international space.

TBS : Who is the woman who likes to wear your label?
SS : Our lady is a conscious consumer. She is intelligent and has a developed taste level. She is intelligent and well travelled. Fashion to her is an extension of her life.

TBS : What does your design process look like?
SS : I start with the fabric and its details. I don’t sketch and instead drape directly on the dress form. All additions happen from there. While it isn’t a structured process, it lets me run with my creativity.

TBS : Where do you derive inspiration from?
SS : As it does for most creative people, an idea can come from anywhere. As long as you can take that idea and develop your own point of view. It has nothing to do with the norm core. I do find myself going back to art to find inspiration – Morphe’s signature wave is a take on ‘The Great Wave of Kanagawa’ by Katsushika Hokusai. It’s an idea, a concept developed over a period of time and we’ve created different manifestations of the wave for our function driven capsule collections.

TBS : What has been challenging/rewarding about designing in India?
SS : The great thing about designing in India is that the different parts of design are not so isolated. I work very closely with the R&D, construction and sample teams. Things here are local so the lag times are not as bad. It allows me to be a part of every stage of the garment. The biggest challenge has been to try and create a presence in the contemporary space – consumers still prefer to invest their money in traditional clothing in India and go abroad for western wear.

TBS : Any advice for aspiring designers?
SS : It’s always great to receive constructive criticism and to try and incorporate it in your work. However, it is best to trust your instincts as a designer and follow your innate talent. It comes down to how you interpret the world and give it your unique stamp.

TBS : Would you at some point like to start your eponymous label?
SS : I would love to go to the source – to work directly with artisans and to focus on the conservation of our craft. I really believe in giving back as a way to moving forward. I’d even like to adopt a village – to empower people with a skilled trade, something that they can use to sustain and thrive.

TBS : It seems that your talent lies in textile development. Is that what you want to continue to focus on?
SS : My design background comes from textiles and at Creative Impex, textiles lie at the center of the product. So it natural for me to continue to focus on that. Also, there is such a rich textile heritage in India. And we still have enough skilled artisans who can bring our creations to life. I’d like to continue playing in that space.

TBS : Your next collection?
SS : We created a capsule collection which is available exclusively at Kitch.

TBS : Where can we shop the brand?
SS : Buyers can come to our studio and book private appointments for a one-on-one experience. We are also available at Bombay Electric, Rocknshop and Pernia’s Popup Shop.

Follow Shenali on Twitter and Instagram and Morphe on Twitter, Facebook and their website.

All photography courtesy of Shenali Sema.

By |2016-11-07T13:36:07+00:00February 3rd, 2015|Categories: Blog, Interviews|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

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